NASA Tech Needs

Technologies to Stabilize and Deliver RNA Strands

An organization is looking for technologies that can stabilize and deliver fragile RNA strands to plants and animals outside of a laboratory-controlled environment. The RNA strands may include dsRNA (double-stranded RNA) and shRNA (short hairpin RNA). A proposed solution must provide a method to make stable dsRNA or shRNA, and/or deliver the RNA to plants, animals, bacteria, fungi, or viruses at the organism level. The technology must maintain stability in a liquid, sprayable formulation, and have a shelf life of at least one or two years.

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Controlled Delivery of Liquid

A customer seeks a range of technologies that will allow controlled delivery of liquid products over a wide viscosity range. Proposed technologies must work for liquids with low viscosity (such as floor cleaners) and/or very high viscosity (such as thick bleaches and body washes). Technologies will be evaluated based on added functionality to the product and optimization of delivery mechanism. Potential solutions include electro-sprays, ionizers, diffusers, piezotechnology, microfluidics, dosing caps, monodose/soluble pouches, orientable/ adjustable nozzles, and automatic spray heads. Technologies such as controlled dosing or automated dispensing are of high interest.

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Spray Coating Systems

Current spray designs coat the exposed surface of the top layer of fibers, while fibers in the interior do not get treated. Fibers also move around when transported during processing, leading to exposure of untreated surfaces. An organization seeks novel technologies that can apply a spray coating to the entire surface area of a collection of fibers. New spray systems and designs must treat the underlying surface area of fibers. Spray systems that can be installed in a confined space are not required, but of additional interest. The invention must be compatible with water-based solutions.

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Improved Recycling Processes

Currently, cellulose-based fibers can only be recycled 6-8 times, after which the fiber length and properties are too significantly impacted for any further reuse. Technologies are therefore required to enhance the fibers’ recycling potential. The technologies must not add virgin fibers at each recycling stage. Potential solutions include synthetic fibers to aid in recovering structural integrity lost in repulping; coatings to provide strengthening end results; and chemical technologies that minimize damage to the fibers during repulping. The primary function of packaging must be maintained.

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Microencapsulation of Probiotic Bacteria

The incorporation of probiotic bacteria into liquid food or food with high water activity is still a challenge for the functional food industry. The metabolic activity of the lyophilized bacteria, however, is extremely sensitive to the presence of water and oxygen, and a solution must protect microencapsulated bacteria from contact. Particles must be of a size below 100 micrometers. Between the process of encapsulation and the time of preservation of probiotic bacteria in the liquid matrix, loss of viability must not exceed an order of magnitude.

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Heat-Seal Adhesive

A new food-grade heat-seal adhesive is needed for roll-coated film lids. New chemistries must be formulated into a waterbased matrix to seal transparent film onto plastic trays containing food or medical materials. The organization deals primarily with polyester films (APET/CPET) and trays, and containers made from polystyrene (PS), polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), polyester (PET), and polyvinylchloride (PVC). Extrusion films or solvent-based materials are not needed, and the solution must withstand 100–140 °C during application. Because the substrate is roll-wound, the material cannot adhere to itself at room temperature.

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Corrugate Reduction

An organization wants to use less corrugate in its shipping operations. Unique designs or processes must reduce the amount of corrugate material required, while maintaining the same level of protection for the products being shipped. Replacing corrugate with another material may be considered, but the replacement material will have to be less expensive and equally environmentally friendly. Possible solutions include thin-walled corrugate, fewer pieces, corrugate reinforced with 90-degree-angle folds, or corrugate in combination with shrink-wrap. The proposed method must be automated and cannot increase the labor component of packaging the materials.

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